CULTURE

Spanish, European Noriega

With politics, economics and culture going hand in hand these days, the case for European cinema seems stronger than ever. «I don’t want a Greek person to talk to me about the Titanic, but about a Greek story, about fishermen on a small island, for instance, so that I, being a Spaniard, can identify with it more easily,» said actor Eduardo Noriega in an interview with Kathimerini English Edition. «Cinema is a means of communication for getting to know each country’s culture.» A guest at the recent fourth annual French Film Festival in Athens, along with director Jean-Pierre Limosin and co-star Anna Mouglalis, Noriega presented his work in «Novo» – currently in its second week at local cinemas. «France protects its cinema and its distribution and supports its films when these go abroad. I think that we must get to know not just the movies but the actors as well,» said the actor, pointing out that, generally speaking, when Spanish actors are little known in Italy or Greece, for instance, distributors are not that eager to buy their films for distribution. Yet Spanish cinema has witnessed flourishing times lately. Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, for example, made cinematic history when he accepted his second Oscar statuette last month. «Spanish cinema has taken a different path from that of French film, which is supported by a strong distribution structure,» said Noriega. «In Spain, there are isolated cases of success, such as the directors Almodovar, Alejandro Amenabar and Julio Medem, or even actors such as Javier Bardem.» Noriega himself has received a fair share of critical acclaim in the last few years, with a string of films revealing his talents as an actor and his desire to work in quality productions. His credits include «Abre los Ojos» (Open Your Eyes), Amenabar’s 1997 psychological thriller – «translated» into «Vanilla Sky» for Hollywood, and starring Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz, the latter of whom also starred in the original – Daniel Calparsoro’s «Guerreros» (Warriors, 2002), which tells the story of Spanish soldiers during the war in Kosovo; Manuel Gutierrez’s «Visionarios» (Visionaries, 2001) with action taking place in the Basque region from 1936 to 1939; Guillermo del Toro’s «El Espinazo del Diablo» (The Devil’s Backbone, 2001), a period drama produced by Agustin Almodovar, the brother of the more famous Pedro, while he is currently filming «Les Mains Vides» (Empty-handed) with director Marc Recha this year. The cinematic vehicle «I’m an exception in my country. Although this is a bubbling moment for individual actors, directors and screenplay writers, it is a delicate moment for the Spanish film industry overall and I was lucky to be able to travel and work abroad,» said Noriega, adding that he has shot films in Argentina and France. «The most important thing is quality, to produce good cinema, the kind of cinema that we know how to make,» said Noriega. «If they offered me the role of motocross racer, for instance, I would ask what is it that you want to narrate. It would be something spectacular that we don’t really know how to do. It’s something American cinema could do better, so why not leave it to them! There are times when action and something spectacular is needed in order to say something but it is not always necessary. Everyday things, however, always touch the public.» Yet American film remains the big dream for many actors. Would Noriega consider a leap to Hollywood? «Why not, it is the cradle of cinema. They have a powerful industry and the best capacity to distribute their product. Essentially, they accept their industrial conditions; they fully understand that it is a business for making money and they know that they have to invest a lot of money in order to make some,» said Noriega. «As for me, I could make films with anyone but, in this case, the problem is that when the priority is making money, you might be losing something on the artistic side, and I never want to lose that side. «Film is a composite of different creative disciplines, the costumes, the lighting, the acting. But I would love to try myself in the USA. «No doubt, an interesting story will come up at one point. Cinema is an international language.» It is this universal quality that drew the actor to join the team of «Novo,» in which Noriega interprets the role of Graham, a man who, having lost his memory, ends up struggling with daily tasks. Director Jean-Pierre Limosin used the idea of memory loss as a pretext to talk about sex, and the desire to rejuvenate emotions. For Noriega, the experience was relative: As he doesn’t speak French, he felt not unlike Graham, who had trouble relating and comprehending what was going on around him. «I was afraid, and felt the presence of responsibility. I contributed in terms of rhythm for instance, not in language. But I did feel free,» he said. «Cinema is a tightly structured pyramid, where everybody has his place and where everybody has a boss and someone to blame. Personally, I like to be in the hands of the director, and I need to feel directed. I need to know that the director knows what he is trying to narrate, otherwise I would feel rather lost. In the case of Jean-Pierre, it was his wife, who was the producer, who told me. «My favorite time is during rehearsals. That is when you feel that free to contribute, when you don’t have the pressure of shooting and the result. There is exchange and you could go wrong. It is a rather intimate moment, with you, the role and the director. It’s when I can contribute things from my own personal life.» If contributing elements from one’s own life gives actors a basis for interpretation, would Noriega go beyond acting and into directing? «My first reaction is that no, I wouldn’t. I am curious, I love photographs and having worked with so many directors, you do end up with a lot of technical knowledge. Perhaps that is why, these days, many actors are going behind the camera,» said Noriega. «The day I have a story to tell, however, the day I think it is necessary, I will direct, even though I don’t have a talent for writing. I value and respect the script and I’m very careful. Not everyone is capable of writing or directing.»